K-12 education accounts for 50 percent of Indiana’s General Fund spending. This makes it important for Hoosiers to have an understanding of how Indiana’s standardized testing policies, including the new ILEARN exam, affect our schools, teachers and students.

In 2018, Indiana transitioned its statewide test from ISTEP to ILEARN. This new test was developed by a group of educators under the direction of the Indiana Department of Education. They decided the passing score should be set higher than that of ISTEP. This higher standard resulted in fewer passing grades, which, in turn, resulted in a negative effect on the assessment of our state’s schools and teachers.

To give teachers and students time to adapt to this new test, I began work recently on measures to enact a two-year adjustment, also called a hold harmless agreement, to the school accountability system. I believe two years, rather than a one-year adjustment, is best to give education leaders enough time to update our state accountability systems.

While Indiana is committed to strong accountability for schools, it is appropriate to provide a temporary hold harmless policy while we make sure our state accountability systems accurately match this new test.

Schools can choose to administer additional assessments, but Indiana only requires two tests — ILEARN and IREAD. ILEARN, which fulfills our federal testing requirement, measures student performance in grades 3 through 8. IREAD measures if students have achieved basic reading skills by the end of third grade.

Many people want to reduce the number of tests our students are required to take, or eliminate standardized testing altogether. The federal government requires a yearly test be administered to track where Hoosier students are academically in order to receive federal funding.

Last fall, when the new ILEARN test results were first released, legislative leaders promised to expedite a hold harmless bill during the 2020 session so schools wouldn’t be left in limbo. We are keeping that promise, and I’m thankful to report that the hold harmless legislation, Senate Bill 2, passed out of the Senate unanimously.

What do you think?

Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, represents northeast Indiana in the Indiana Senate. His columns appear periodically in this newspaper.

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